[SEQ RERUN] Church vs. Taskforce

post by MinibearRex · 2013-04-05T04:43:13.572Z · score: 1 (2 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 12 comments

Today's post, Church vs. Taskforce was originally published on 28 March 2009. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):

 

Churches serve a role of providing community - but they aren't explicitly optimized for this, because their nominal role is different. If we desire community without church, can we go one better in the course of deleting religion? There's a great deal of work to be done in the world; rationalist communities might potentially organize themselves around good causes, while explicitly optimizing for community.


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This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

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12 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-04-05T09:08:28.646Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looking at a typical religious church, for example, you could suspect—although all of these things would be better tested experimentally, than just suspected— That getting up early on a Sunday morning is not optimal;

If you want people to meet together, you have to agree on the same time. Choosing one fixed moment every week is much easier than negotiating every meeting separately. Morning is better than evening, because if people start doing something else in the morning, they will be distracted by it. Weekend is better than a week day. The solution seems pretty close to optimal.

That wearing formal clothes is not optimal, especially for children;

This may actually be a good Schelling point. Imagine that your social gatherings are be discovered by smelly homeless people who visit them for the purpose of getting free food; and it makes some other people leave. You need to draw a line somewhere, but where exactly?

That listening to the same person give sermons on the same theme every week ("religion") is not optimal;

Agree. Although a short repetition of some central points could be good. People need to reminded about things repeatedly, or they forget. Also, repetition and predictability are pleasant for many people; this is why humans invent rituals.

That the cost of supporting a church and a pastor is expensive, compared to the number of different communities who could time-share the same building for their gatherings;

Let's assume that there is an optimal time of the week, for example the Sunday morning. Then you definitely want to reserve the building during the Sunday morning for your community. (But during the rest of the week you could share it with other communities. Just make it obvious they know their limits.) Having your "pastor" only for yourself seems like a good idea; organizations need people working full-time for them.

That they probably don't serve nearly enough of a matchmaking purpose, because churches think they're supposed to enforce their medieval moralities;

Sometimes the community is better without obvious matchmaking. Sexual relationships also bring a lot of drama, deceit, unhappiness, signalling games, etc. You don't want all this to become associated with your community meetings.

I agree that the existing churches are not optimal for the purpose of community building, but I think they are already pretty close to the optimal solution. Probably closer than a random reasonable sounding alternative solution. Keep this in mind when designing the alternatives.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-04-06T03:12:51.851Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That getting up early on a Sunday morning is not optimal;

Weekend is better than a week day.

I find it amusing that you've reversed the historical causality there, without apparently noticing.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-04-06T08:11:19.652Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sure, historically the causality is the other way round. But if you tried to start a new organization today, it would be easiest to use the existing weekends. Unless you had enough power to change it.

comment by gjm · 2013-04-05T18:51:34.472Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Imagine that your social gatherings are be discovered by smelly homeless people who visit them for the purpose of getting free food; and it makes some other people leave. You need to draw a line somewhere, but where exactly?

This isn't necessarily relevant to social groups other than churches -- but if a church meeting provides free food to smelly homeless people, the chances are that that's the single thing they do all day that's most in keeping with their official values and goals.

comment by Decius · 2013-04-06T01:23:40.510Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm sure you don't want to marginalize what the 'smelly homeless people' can provide to a community. I'd be more worried about the harm that the white-collar criminal or sexual predator can and will do.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-04-05T18:34:11.602Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you want people to meet together, you have to agree on the same time. Choosing one fixed moment every week is much easier than negotiating every meeting separately. Morning is better than evening, because if people start doing something else in the morning, they will be distracted by it. Weekend is better than a week day. The solution seems pretty close to optimal.

Keep in mind though that if church occurs at the same time every week, then people who're inclined to go are likely to block off that time for church attendance rather than starting something else in the same time block.

If I were trying to schedule the optimal time for church services, I'd probably pick Sunday or Saturday morning, but not earlier than 10:00. An hour one way or another can make a big difference.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-04-06T03:17:15.553Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

but not earlier than 10:00.

I would argue that starting before 10:00 is optimal, it's our modern habit of being ridiculously night-shifted that isn't.

comment by falenas108 · 2013-04-19T16:06:32.475Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It doesn't matter what should be, the fact is people are night shifted, and we have to work with that.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-04-06T13:23:58.241Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not everyone gets to choose whether to work at a job that keeps them up late.

I think optimal church hours would let everyone whose schedule isn't extremely nightshifted sleep in at least a little for the weekend, then have breakfast, and make it to church without rushing.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-04-08T02:48:39.366Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not everyone gets to choose whether to work at a job that keeps them up late.

That argument can be trivially modified as an argument against any particular time.

comment by Desrtopa · 2013-04-08T02:52:36.045Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Only if you don't care about the actual quantitative component. Quite a lot more people are still at work at 10:00 pm than at 3:00 am.

comment by Decius · 2013-04-06T01:25:22.454Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If Rationality is to spread and become important to a larger proportion of the population in the future, I think that there is a very high chance that implementations of this type will be the most important contribution to that spread.